Dear (Imaginary*) Client,
Please read, digest and act promptly upon this article in The Guardian which tells you how to appropriately protect your privacy on Facebook.
I reserve the right to sack you forthwith** should it appear that evidence of any of the following information has made its way to court as a result of your inability to understand the basic implications of using social networking:
- You have slagged off, bitched about, or harassed your ex on Facebook (or Twitter, or whatever)
- You have discussed your dispute about the kids on Facebook
- You have published information relating to the court case about the kids on Facebook
- You have sent messages to all your exes Facebook friends telling them what a b****** s/he is
- You have secretly tried to make contact with the kids using Facebook
- You have logged into your ex’s Facebook account and posted bogus information
- You let the kids find out about your new boy/girlfriend by seeing the photos of the two of you canoodling which you posted on Facebook or because you changed your profile information to ‘engaged’
- You have tried to ask the kids questions about what your ex is up to by instant messaging them on Facebook
- You have conducted an argument via status update on Facebook
- You have posted information on Facebook completely at odds with your evidence to the court that you are a pauper and live a modest lifestyle (to include pictures of new shiny boys toys, exotic holidays, lavish parties etc)
- You have posted pictures of yourself on Facebook completely plastered or in a substance induced compromising position
- You have joined the Facebook group ‘Ganja is great’ or similar
- You have posted pictures of yourself in a location or with a person you have denied going to or spending time with
- Your profile shows you as ‘in a relationship’ with that dodgy bloke that you agreed in court / with the social worker should not come into contact with the kids
For the avoidance of doubt I also reserve the right to charge an uplift on my usual fee in the event of either of the following scenarios arising:
- You have allowed your ex directly or indirectly to gain access to information you ‘hope’ will remain private (by way of mutual friends or otherwise misunderstanding the privacy settings) and such failing results in the exposure of all parties, lawyers and judge having to listen to and experience the utter tedium that consists of you explaining pages and pages of banal status updates in cross examination simply to reach the very obvious conclusion that you are in fact an arse without an ounce of discretion, credibility, common sense or IT literacy
- You have yourself gathered any of the above information about your ex and brought it to court on the morning of the hearing under the mistaken belief that anybody but you will be remotely interested.
* Whilst the client is imaginary the scenarios below are (sadly) not. I can report from first hand experience that Judges do not get Facebook, but they do get irritated by Facebook evidence and the whole court will most probably have lost the will to live before its over.
** I’m kidding. Ever heard of the cab rank rule?
I had a particularly taxing day at court recently. My opponent solicitor and I did not – ahem – gel. My attempts to engage in negotiation met with much dramatic huffing and flinging about of the word ‘nonsense’, escalating to swearing and door slamming of a most juvenile kind. You know constructive dialogue is at an end when your professional conduct is impugned simply for disagreeing with the other side’s position. And when I’ve volunteered to draft an order that by rights should have been drafted by the other side, criticising my handwriting is likely to result in a biro-in-eyeball incident (I counted to ten, the urge passed). He didn’t do his client any favours – although she probably thinks he put on a grand performance – he was so busy with the amateur dramatics and bullyboy tactics that he completely failed to appreciate the significance of the information I was trying to give him.
But most lawyers do at least maintain a certain sense of decorum, and we can agree to disagree on our client’s respective positions, and operate courteously even in the face of the most divergent of instructions. I cite as one example the case of Arkell v Pressdram. Brilliant.
Is there any part of the family justice system not being adversely affected by a lack of resources?
A quite astonishing experience recently in a Family Proceedings Court: already delayed care proceedings were being re-listed for final hearing and all advocates and all parties were united in their view that the case required a four day hearing, and that greater delay would most likely be caused by listing for the original allocation of 3 days, as the matter might have to go off part heard or be vacated. The Court Manager refused the Legal Advisor’s request to even search for a block of 4 days to enable the advocates to discuss timetabling back from the fixture, even when the clerk had re-argued the points made by the advocates at length on the telephone in court in front of the parties and the bench. Eventually the Magistrates took it upon themselves to formally rule that four days was required -the chair making a rather wry remark about the likelihood of his head being chopped off – and yet still the Court Manager refused the request. It was only upon further argument and when detailed explanation of the number of witnesses and issues to be resolved was again argued (a word deliberately chosen) by telephone by the poor legal adviser that the Court Manager ‘authorised’ that 4 days could be searched for and booked. I can tell you that eyes were rolling on both sides of the bench by the time we sorted it out.
This is all wrong and is a very bad sign. Whilst resources are clearly to be carefully husbanded it is for the Magistrates to take decisions about what the interests of justice require in any given case, and if the Magistrates rule that four days is required that is the end of it: the Court Manager’s job is simply to facilitate it. The charade I witnessed in court undermines confidence in the Magistrates, and the system at large, notwithstanding that these Magistrates did eventually stand up to the Manager. It also put the legal advisor in an extremely invidious position. And the policy of refusing to even indicate when the next slot of a particular length might be available to enable advocates to put together sensible draft directions for the bench to consider is simply obstructive and in our case extended the length of the hearing considerably because we had to construct detailed directions during the hearing as different dates were proposed, with people popping in and out to make phonecalls about availability (At the outset of the morning I had sought information on behalf of all advocates as to the next available 3 days slot so we could think through possibilities and seek availability of our experts – and was politely told where to go). All at court and being paid whilst this was dealt with in unnecessarily protracted fashion were 5 lawyers, 3 social workers, and 2 Reliance officers (escorting a party produced from prison). And the legal advisor missed half his lunch break.
Result: no money saved for HMCS, but a considerable additional expense to the legal aid fund, to the Local Authority and to the Prison Service. Job well done, I say.